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Wholesale power plant is first in United States

Archie Cain of Entergy Wholesale Operations steps into an emissions monitoring station Tuesday near a stack that leads to one of four natural gas-powered turbine engines. At top are Cain and Entergy manager Larry Daspit. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[8/22/01] The first and only Entergy wholesale power generating facility in the United States officially kicked off operations in Vicksburg Tuesday with a celebration by Entergy and community officials.

The new $140 million gas-turbine plant on the Baxter Wilson Steam Electric site off Warrenton Road broke ground in Vicksburg just 11 months ago. It is ready to to start offering power on the wholesale market to other utilities.

“This is really a historic occasion for Entergy, Entergy Mississippi, our customers and Warren County,” Don Hintz, Entergy president, said at a ribbon-cutting.

“This is the first one for us in the U.S., and one reason is good support from the local community,” Hintz said. “I couldn’t imagine we could have built this plant as fast as it was built.”

State Rep. George Flaggs, North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield and executive chairman of the Port Commission and Chamber of Commerce Jimmy Heidel, were among those welcoming the Entergy officials.

Entergy is based in New Orleans and operates multiple divisions worldwide. Entergy Operations is one subsidiary in the area, making electricity at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Claiborne County and Baxter Wilson in Vicksburg. That power is sold through Entergy retailers, including Jackson-based Entergy Mississippi.

Entergy Wholesale is based in Texas and, under present regulations, cannot sell power to any Entergy retailer.

The Warren Power Project, one of several small gas-fired plants being built, can generate 300 megawatts, enough for about 400,000 homes.

The plant, which can be operated by a few specialists, will be cranked up whenever there’s a non-Entergy customer wanting to make a purchase. The customer could be an electrical cooperative, municipal system or a different investor-owned utility.

“This is truly a tremendous occasion for Entergy and for all involved,” said Geoff Roberts, president and CEO of Entergy Wholesale. “The foundation for a project like this is the local community and the officials where the plant is located. Mississippi, Vicksburg and Warren County officials were a very integral part of making this plant an actuality.”

When the plant was announced in February 2000, Vicksburg and Warren County elected officials acted to grant Entergy Wholesale Operations, the plant’s owner, tax breaks that will save the company $31 million over 10 years. The company will still pay a third of the amount it would normally pay in taxes, but local officials said local taxpayers won’t be losing. Although reduced, the amount Entergy Wholesale will pay in taxes is above the $10,000 a year the land it occupies has generated in taxes in the past.

Alderman Young said Entergy has always been an asset to the area.

“I wanted people to know how good a corporation Entergy is,” Young said. “Not just in regards to dollar signs, but being a good neighbor.”

She said the corporation has been involved in community outreach for years, so she had no hesitation in supporting the new plant.

“I want people to know when they get their bill to be happy to pay it because it’s not just about a bill, but about the people of Vicksburg,” Young said. “That’s why we couldn’t say no when they asked us.”

The plant consists of four generators turned by turbine engines fueled by natural gas. A major benefit is that the gas burns cleaner than coal, oil or other non-nuclear fuels, Entergy manager Larry Daspit said.

Construction costs were paid by Entergy stockholders. The price of building or operating the plant is not part of the rate base for Entergy’s retail bills.